A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review: The Alpha Heir (Kingdom of Askara #2) by Victoria Sue and Joel Leslie (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

 

I enjoyed this sequel to The Alpha King almost as much as I enjoyed the original. But I didn’t feel the pull and the love between the MCs as much in this one, mostly because of their life circumstances and the way the story was written—they were enemies for quite some time. Toward the end, when they finally acknowledge and share their love, it was well worth the wait. And speaking of the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the cameo appearance of Luca in his role as the Alpha King. It’s evident he wears the cloak of responsibility regally.

In the early stages of this story, we meet both Caleb and Taegan, in different scenarios and with totally opposite life circumstances. Taegan is the leader of the human rebel forces in a different pack area of the kingdom of Askara from where The Alpha King took place. These rebels have much to lose since the wolves are snatching their children to use not only for dangerous work but now for unknown purposes. As an aside here I just have to say that Joel Leslie’s childrens’ voices were too precious for words! Loved, loved, loved them!

Teagan’s mother is still with him and he has the protection, counsel and support of Silas, a 200-year-old lone wolf. We learn late in the story about why Silas has made himself available to watch over Teagan, a human, but throughout the book he’s extremely helpful in helping Teagan solve the puzzle of the missing children, the dastardly plans of the reigning alpha, and the very puzzling circumstances of why Caleb, though a wolf, would be bound in chains, starved, beaten, and tortured.

To be honest, I don’t recall every little detail of the story—mostly because I was swept along in my enjoyment of the narration and in understanding the complexity of events as they unfolded. Given the fact that I generally start and stop an audiobook frequently over the course of several days, I have to admit that my total recall is lacking. However, what I can say is that Caleb is sweetly endearing, and as he begins to heal and get stronger, it’s evident that he does indeed  have the stuff an Alpha Heir is made of. Will he get the opportunity to present himself as the heir? Well, that’s why readers should pick up this book, preferably in audio form so Joel Leslie can bring the huge cast of characters to life and tell you the tale.

Over the course of the second half of the book, even though it seems impossible, the human and the wolf realize they are lifemates, but if Caleb is to claim his rightful place as Alpha, he’ll need to have an Omega wolf at his side, according to the laws that govern them. Add to that, Teagan’s natural tendency to put others ahead of himself, and Caleb’s low self-worth—beaten into him over the course of his six-year persecution, and we have an interesting quandary. By all means, if you like shifter stories and a little fantasy added into your paranormal, this series is the one to choose. Highly recommend

Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible

Audiobook Details:

7 hours and 34 minutes

Audible Audio, Unabridged, 8 pages
Published December 19th 2017 by Victoria Sue (first published September 4th 2017)
ASIN B078BGHCJF
Edition Language English
Series Kingdom of Askara #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: A Wild Ride (The Bullriders #1) by Andrew Grey and John Solo (Narrator)

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Rating 4.5 stars out of 5

Typical of Andrew Grey, this story had an underlying sweetness to it, even though the MC was a macho bull rider. Dante was a great character who snagged my heart with his need to let go of control to the young man he meets at a bar the night he loses first place at the championship event. Ryan, a financial advisor, was there that night simply because he accompanied his friend Jacky, and little did he know that the good-looking cowboy he takes to his bed is famous.

Ryan gets Dante to give up his control, to submit to the more dominant man, and Dante is shocked that he enjoys it. Of course, later he’s embarrassed and does what he can to put miles between the men. And then Ryan shows up at his ranch to meet with Dante’s grandfather about financial issues his granddad wants kept private, and Dante is thrown for a loss.

The push pull of this romance was spiced up with a little D/s and a lot of rodeo. There was also the hurt-comfort theme as Dante’s grandfather’s health deteriorated rapidly and Dante was committed to his care. And there’s the surprise reveal that the Ryan is advising his grandfather about his desire to sell the ranch and the resulting backlash from that—all of which fans the drama. And last but not least, there’s the fact that Dante being gay has been confirmed in the media and he’s in danger of losing his major sponsor.

There’s a lot to this story and it’s very well-paced. Both characters were likable and perfect for each other. Narrator John Solo did an outstanding job with the voices, including the frail, old man, and made it easy to follow the story. In fact, this one was so interesting that I devoured it in two days—not my usual pattern for an audiobook but it was fun to listen to so I found excuses to keep my wireless earphones in. It was a definite treat.

I recommend this to lovers of mild BDSM, rodeo lovers, and simply those who enjoy a great audiobook that ends with a sweet HEA for two men in love.

Cover art: L.C. Chase has the perfect cover for this story.  Love the characters and the composition.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Published February 27th 2018 (first published April 1st 2013)
Original TitleA Wild Ride
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Bullriders #1

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Return of the Chauffeur’s Son by Tara Lain and Greg Tremblay (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This was a highly enjoyable and entertaining audiobook. In fact, I enjoyed this Tara Lain story more than any of her other stories in the past few years. I don’t know whether she changed her writing style, or whether it was simply the added boost by the narration of talented voice actor Greg Tremblay, but I simply couldn’t turn the audiobook off. I listened as often as possible, even facing teasing from my family who were surprised that I’d rather listen to the audio than to them. Imagine that!

Seriously though, this story about young Luca McGrath, a graduate chef who returns to the Napa Valley to take a position with a prestigious restaurant—while at the same time reuniting with his father and the wealthy Armstrong family for whom he works as a chauffeur—was delightful. Luca is a sweetheart, as well as being intelligent, a gifted chef, a loving son, and he’s held an unrequited love for James Armstrong ever since they were children. Even now, it doesn’t matter to Luca that James is heterosexual—he’s still stunning, sexy, and flirty with Luca—leading Luca to believe he might not be 100% straight.

In the meantime, James’s older brother, Dylan, is equally stunning, but quieter, more introspective, more of the tycoon-type businessman, and better able to hide his feelings for Luca. He’s out to prove James is not really interested in Luca, and yet he wants to protect Luca’s feelings. There are also complications related to James’s upcoming marriage to a woman whose company is about to merge with the Armstrong family holdings and a messy breakup will mess up the merger plans.

And to make matters even more complex, Luca becomes unintentionally involved in intrigue involving a local food contest that is the highlight of the local cuisine industry. Unknown to him, he’s set up to take the fall for theft of a recipe from his boss’s competitor, and when that happens, he throws in the towel and escapes back to New York. He’s done with all the Armstrongs, and with the Napa Valley as a whole. Will Dylan let him stay in New York, or will the strong-willed, quiet man finally take a risk and tell Luca how he feels?

Honestly, this is a very enjoyable story. It’s fast-paced and full of both intrigue and handsome men. There’s also lots of romance and loving—for family and for potential life partners. And Greg Tremblay brings it all to life. Each character has his—or her—own unique voice, adding to the listener’s pleasure. I definitely recommend this to lovers of contemporary MM romance and most definitely recommend it in audio format. Kudos to Ms. Lain and Mr. Tremblay!

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The cover by Reese Dante is bright and attractive, featuring a close-up of young, fresh-faced Luca and a darker figure in business suit in the background—most definitely representing Dylan.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio
Published September 28th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press (first published June 2nd 2017)
Original TitleReturn of the Chauffeur’s Son
ASINB075XQP614
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Friendly Fire by Cari Z and Nick J. Russo (Narrator)

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I really enjoyed the narration of this audiobook by Nick J. Russo.  I say that up front because listening to the story unfold is always a different experience from reading the book, and in the hands of a talented and experienced narrator, an average or above average story can be even more enjoyable. That’s the case here as I set out to listen to what I thought would be an interesting story but turned out to be so much better than I expected. 

Elliot McKenzie is the CEO of a highly popular social media corporation, Charmed Life.  Ostensibly, it’s for those who want to learn from past mistakes and make their lives as good as their potential.  Against all odds, he’s succeeded, and on the surface one would think he’d be pretty full of himself, but Elliot is not like that.  He’s quite down to earth and he certainly relies heavily on his staff, including his assistant, Serena.  So when she finds out he’s been getting threats, she’s on him to call the cops—something he won’t do because his sister is running for DA for the second time around and she lost the first race because of his arrest on the eve of the last election.  He won’t let bad publicity affect her this time—under any circumstances—so Serena convinces him to hire her sister’s ex-husband, a former Army Ranger who now works for a security firm.

Lennox West suffers from severe PTSD, so much so, that he’s afraid to spend too much time with his teen daughter, leading to an even further estrangement with his ex and with his daughter.  He’s trying though—going to therapy and making an effort to hold a steady job and to spend brief periods of time with the young girl.  When he meets Elliot McKenzie, life as he knew it changes drastically.  Elliot is not what he seems to be on the outside and he captures Lennox’s attention and holds it. That the sparks are mutual leads to some pretty hot sex for the two and lays the foundation for a closeness that Lennox is certainly not used to.

When accidents and threats and outright attempts on Elliot’s life keep throwing the men together and the mystery gets heavier as it appears that more than one culprit is involved, the men risk losing their independence as they see they need each other.  Does it help that Elliot’s presence in his life seems to increase the time Lennox gets to spend with his daughter? Definitely. 

The story is highly enjoyable as told by Nick J. Russo who uses a deep, rough, slightly Southern accent for Lennox and a well-paced, business-like, professional tone for Elliot’s voice.  The women in the story don’t sound the least bit fake, and in fact, at times I forgot a man was doing their voices.  My enjoyment only increased as the mystery got more complex, the men got closer, Lennox got to spend more time with his daughter, and the threats and danger to Elliot escalated out of control.  My only downside was that the couple didn’t commit to a solid future together.  Possibly the author has plans to bring them back in a sequel, and that’s something I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing.  So though the guys are together at the end, I’d call it more of a HFN rather than a HEA—still good—just not where I wanted them. 

I definitely recommend this to those who like a murder mystery—in this case attempted murder—in a contemporary MM romance with well-rounded, interesting characters.  It’s likely obvious by now, but if I must say so outright, I highly recommend the audiobook version. 

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Cover art by LC Chase depicts the rear view of a man holding a gun down at his side. Done in black on gray and with a smudged look—somewhat like a watercolor effect—the only part of the cover that stands out from a distance is the bright “fire” red title of the book.  I don’t think the cover adds any appeal at all and would not induce me to purchase it.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Audible | Amazon | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Length: 8 hours and 5 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Audible.com Release Date: August 10, 2017
Whispersync for Voice: Ready
Language: English
ASIN: B074N5PZCH

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Learning to Love by Felice Stevens and Derrick McClain (Narrator)

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A very definite love story, this is the story of chef and caterer, Gideon Marks, owner of Garden of Eatin’.  Gideon lands the job he’s been looking forward to when he secures the catering of the function sponsored by the synagogue where he grew up.  He’s been away ten years and is back to prove he’s much more than anyone ever gave him credit for. 

Growing up poor and being called stupid by teachers and classmates did nothing to help his self-esteem, but now that he’s a business owner with his best friend, Rico, and has secured this job, he’ll prove he’s more than anyone ever thought.  The thing he doesn’t realize is that the  dyslexia that earned him the “stupid” label as a kid is something that can be treated now and his hurt and resentment, in large part, was more about what he thought people thought of him than what they actually did think.

Case in point, Rabbi Jonah Fine, former classmate and gorgeous man who now seems to be pursuing Gideon for more than just his food.  Apparently Jonah harbored a secret crush on Gideon and never acted on it since he wasn’t out in high school.  But he pursues him strongly now, and together with Jonah, Gideon learns how to love—not just Jonah, but himself, with a dawning self-esteem and a pursuit of therapy for his learning disorder and with communication with his father who had abandoned him in childhood and has come back now to beg forgiveness.  Gideon is the only one on the receiving end of help though.  Not even realizing it, he helps Jonah overcome his own personal hurdles as his father retires and he takes over the role of rabbi at their synagogue.   

A very well narrated audiobook, Derrick McClain brings these characters to life with fantastic vocalizations and a well-paced narrative.  The story is sweet and sexy and just what I needed to bring a smile to my face on a gloomy day.   

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Cover art by Reese Dante. The attractive cover features a very handsome man, no doubt representing Gideon. 

Sales Links:

AMAZON US: http://amzn.to/2weRJAQ

AMAZON UK: http://amzn.to/2wevxad

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook
Published July 14th 2017 by Felice Stevens (first published April 30th 2016)
ASINB073VV9ZBK
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: The Mystery of Nevermore (Snow & Winter: Book One) by C.S. Poe and narrated by Derrick McClain

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

First of all, kudos to Derrick McClain for his outstanding performance of the characters in this story. His vocalizations were varied and seemed perfect for each one. That is especially true for the voice he gave Sebastian Snow, the geeky bookworm and antique store owner. Even with my eyes closed, I’d realize that voice belonged to a geek. It was perfect. So, getting this story in audio will set the stage for a very pleasant listening experience.

Now, for the story. I need to say that the audiobook doesn’t contain a note from the author, which I found out was present in the e-book version. That note apparently states that these characters are intended to be a tribute to Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English Mysteries, so at first I wondered why the story was so eerily familiar. And then I went to the reviews posted for the e-book version and read about the author’s fascination with, and tribute to, that series—one which is an all-time favorite among many, many MM romance readers.

Once I understood that, I was able to relax and enjoy all that unfolded in this book. This murder mystery took place in the world of antique and bookshop owners and involved the mystery of who was trying to find and steal a very rare copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane. Along the way, Sebastian Snow and his live-in lover, Neil, a deeply closeted cop, break up and Sebastian ends up in bed with the investigator of the murder mystery, Calvin Winter. Over the course of the story the romance between Snow and Winter develops to the point where we have a HFN by the end of the book.

I likely would have scored this book higher if Sebastian didn’t have sex with Calvin before he and Neil officially broke up, and in fact, it seemed as if it happened while Neil’s head indent was still on the pillows on the bed. Too soon for me, it smacked of cheating so it left me disinclined to be pleased for him, though by the end I really liked Calvin and wanted him to find happiness. I also think it’s critical that an author’s note be included in an audiobook when it includes an important piece of information as this one apparently did so I can’t give this more than 4 stars overall—3 for the story and 1 extra for the outstanding narration.

Because of Derrick’s narration, I enjoyed this story enough to highly recommend the audiobook to lovers of MM romance, geeks, and mystery.

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The predominantly white cover by Reese Dante features a gray-and-white rendition of Sebastian with a faint gray-on-white picture of a raven in the background. It suits the story perfectly.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications |  Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Time: 7 hrs 58 min

Audiobook

DSP Publications
Published March 30th 2017 (first published August 30th 2016)
Edition Language English
Series Snow & Winter #1